Experimenting on Contextualism

Mind and Language 28 (3):286-321 (2013)
This paper concerns the central method of generating evidence in support of contextualist theories, what we call context shifting experiments. We begin by explaining the standard design of context shifting experiments, which are used in both quantitative surveys and more traditional thought experiments to show how context affects the content of natural language expressions. We discuss some recent experimental studies that have tried and failed to find evidence that confirms contextualist predictions about the results of context shifting experiments, and consider the criticisms of those studies made by DeRose (forthcoming). We show that DeRose's criticisms are incomplete, and we argue that the design of context shifting experiments he proposes is itself subject to some of the same problems as the studies he criticizes. We propose a refined approach to the design of context shifting experiments that addresses these problems and which allows us to to investigate the effect of context on both positive and negative sentences. This aspect of our design allows us to control for several forms of bias, including a particular form of "truth bias" that favors positive over negative sentences. We then deploy our improved design in an experiment that tests a large number of scenarios involving different types of expressions of interest to contextualists, including "know" and color adjectives like "green". Our experiment (i) reveals an effect of changing contexts on the evaluation of uses of the sentences that we examined, thereby overturning the absence of results reported in previous experimental studies (so-called null results) and (ii) reveals previously unnoticed distinctions between the strength of the contextual effects we observed for scenarios involving knowledge ascriptions and for scenarios concerning color and other miscellaneous scenarios.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1111/j.1468-0017.2013.12019.x
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 16,661
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA
Keith DeRose (1992). Contextualism and Knowledge Attributions. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 52 (4):913-929.

View all 29 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles
Nat Hansen (2011). Color Adjectives and Radical Contextualism. Linguistics and Philosophy 34 (3):201-221.
Claudia Bianchi (2005). How to Be a Contextualist. Facta Philosophica 7 (2):261-272.

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

126 ( #20,484 of 1,726,249 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

20 ( #41,183 of 1,726,249 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.